Who should the Bears draft in the first round?

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We’re a little over 24 hours away from kicking off the 2021 NFL Draft. Who will the Bears select at Pick 20 in the first round? That’s the big question on all Bears fans’ minds as we count down the hours until they’re on the clock.

As I noted in my post the other day, there have been countless mock drafts produced over the past few months. Many have the Bears playing it safe and selecting from a position of need, such as wide receiver or cornerback. Others have the Bears trading back in an effort to accumulate more assets. Still others have the Bears being aggressive and trading up into the Top 10 to select one of the five quarterbacks who figure to be first-round prospects.

I will not be churning out a mock draft. It’s an exercise in futility, as fruitless as filling out March Madness brackets. But I do have some thoughts about who I’d like the Bears to target if they stay put at Pick 20.

The Bears cannot and should not draft a wide receiver in the first round

I have no doubts that there are some uber-talented wide receivers. Last year, we got an up close and personal look at how talented Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson is. The Cowboys’ CeeDee Lamb likely will have a great career as well.

But just how good are Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, and Jalen Reagor, the other receivers selected in the first round? We don’t know yet because they didn’t show much as rookies. And, of course, it’s too early to pass judgment on them. It’ll take a few years to properly evaluate them.

There were a couple standout second-round receivers in Tee Higgins of Cincinnati and Chase Claypool of Pittsburgh. The Bears’ Darnell Mooney had a strong rookie season and he was drafted all the way down in the fifth round.

In today’s era of spread offenses and pass-happy systems, the crop of rookie receivers is going to appear strong nearly every year. Or “deep”, if you prefer. Good talent can be had beyond the first round.

With that insight in mind, I have no desire for the Bears to draft a receiver at Pick 20 this year.

For starters, the Bears are in urgent, win-now mode. And rookie receivers often don’t produce right away. Secondly, Allen Robinson and Mooney have already cemented their status atop the depth chart. Sure, Robinson’s long-term future is uncertain as he prepares to play under the franchise tag. But his presence at least gives the Bears a little breathing room.

The Bears can easily address their receiver depth in the mid-to-late rounds. Matt Nagy can find himself a speedster who can stretch the field anywhere on their draft board. Fans are concerned with the “sexy pick” who has name recognition. However, few Bears fans ever heard the name Darnell Mooney one year ago, but most are now glad the Bears have him.

I think the Bears have bigger needs and can get better value by selecting a different position in Round 1.

The Bears cannot offer what they did for Russell Wilson to move up and select a rookie quarterback

I won’t go into this in great depth, because I already explained it in my post the other day.

But in short: the Bears reportedly offered an arm and a leg to the Seahawks for quarterback Russell Wilson. They should not, however, offer a similar package to move up in Round 1 to draft one of the Top 5 quarterback prospects.

First-round quarterbacks have been hit-or-miss for the past 20 years — emphasis on “miss.” I desperately want the Bears to address the position, but my desperation has a limit. The most I’d be okay with the Bears offering is Pick 20 plus a few second-round picks to move up into the mid-teens. If that isn’t good enough to get the job done, oh well. Move on to the next tier.

Which brings me to Kellen Mond.

I’d like the Bears to target Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond

I really like what I’ve seen from and heard about Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond. He’s not in the same league as Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, or Mac Jones, which is why he’s not mentioned in the same tier as they are.

But Mond has upside and is a capable draft prospect. He’s mobile and can make all the NFL throws. I wouldn’t expect him to be a multi-year Pro Bowler, but the Bears just need someone who can make plays.

I’ve heard suggestions that the Bears should “reach” for him at Pick 20 if they’re that enamored with him (and rumors are they really do like him). But I think that’d be a bit of a waste. If the Bears don’t think that he’ll fall to their second-round pick, they could either trade up in Round 2, or trade back in Round 1 and get another asset or two in the process.

Either way, I’d be awfully happy if they walked away from this draft with Mond.

Cornerback, like receiver can wait until a later round

The Bears created a major hole in their secondary by releasing Kyle Fuller due to cap problems. But it’s a hole I don’t think necessarily needs to be filled by a first-round prospect.

In theory, you can get by with a moderate cornerback if you have a great pass rush — and that’s where all the Bears’ money is invested at the moment.

But they aren’t going to get by with a mediocre offense and that’s what they’ll have in 2021 if they don’t add some more pieces to that side of the ball.

The Bears signed veteran Desmond Trufant as a stopgap to replace Fuller. And when Trufant plays, he’s been effective. Staying healthy has been an issue for him the past couple years. But if Trufant serves as the bridge to a mid-round prospect, I’m fine with that.

The Bears should address the offensive line in the first round

If the Bears stay put at Pick 20, I think they ought to address the offensive line, specifically tackle.

Yes, there is good depth at the tackle position in this year’s draft class. But snagging one of the class’ top prospects and solidifying the outside of the line will do wonders for the offense.

I cannot express enough how much a solid offensive line opens doors for the offense. What we saw out of David Montgomery in the second half of last season is what you can expect more of with improvement up front. And the Bears can get by with the Red Rifle Andy Dalton at quarterback, or even Mond or some other rookie, if they give him better protection.

Prospects I’m interested in at Pick 20

The following is a list of prospects I’d like the Bears to consider if they stay put at Pick 20. Some of these players won’t make it to that pick, and we won’t know for sure because nobody knows what’s going on in the war rooms around the league.

But according to the mock drafts, the following players have been considered to be available around the Bears’ pick:

  • Christian Darrisaw, Offensive Tackle/Virginia Tech
  • Teven Jenkins, Offensive Tackle/Oklahoma State
  • Alijah Vera-Tucker, Offensive Line/USC

If — and it’s a big if — any of the following players happen to slide to the Bears, I would consider breaking my own aforementioned rules. But I expect these players to be long gone when the Bears are on the board:

  • Jaylen Waddle, Wide Receiver/Alabama
  • Patrick Surtain II, Cornerback/Alabama
  • Caleb Farley, Cornerback/Virginia Tech
  • Any of the Top 5 Quarterbacks

Bears need an immediate playmaker

Whether you love him or hate him, give Ryan Pace kudos for finding a number of playmakers in mid-to-late rounds. Just look at the number of verifiable contributors he has taken throughout his tenure with the Bears:

Round 2:

  • Eddie Goldman
  • Cody Whitehair
  • James Daniels
  • Jaylon Johnson

Round 3:

  • David Montgomery

Round 4:

  • Nick Kwiatkoski
  • Deon Bush
  • Eddie Jackson

Round 5:

  • Adrian Amos
  • Jordan Howard
  • Tarik Cohen
  • Bilal Nichols
  • Darnell Mooney

What he hasn’t done well is acquire the right player in Round 1. I admit it. He’s 1-for-4 right now. He hit the nail on the head with Roquan Smith, but he missed on Kevin White, Leonard Floyd and Mitch Trubisky. Now, if you think that Pace is an anomaly, you’re sorely mistaken. The first round produces plenty of busts on a yearly basis.

But Pace can’t fail this year. He has to find a Day 1 starter for not just this year but the immediate future to come. I trust him to find contributors in the middle rounds. And if he can add a steady starter such as a bookend offensive tackle, we can see some positive growth from the offense beginning this fall.

Former high school and college kicker. Lifelong Chicago Bears fan. I've been writing about the navy blue and burnt orange since 2007. You can follow BearsBeat.com on Twitter, like it on Facebook, or email me.